Chinese rover discovers traces of never-before-seen basalt on the moon

(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists continue to analyze rock and mud samples brought back by China‘s Chang’e-5 lunar rover, and the latest results point to new kinds of geology from regions of the moon that have yet to be discovered and studied.

Among 1,731 kg (3,816 lb) of 2-billion-year-old regolith loose, loose dirt and rubble on the Moon‘s surface seven different rock types have been found.

One of the rocks is a completely new type of lunar basalt, created at a time when the moon was still volcanically active.

This regolith is the youngest ever returned from the Moon, allowing experts to study a time period different from other samples and help them chart a turbulent period in our close neighbor’s history.

The seven rock types listed in the study are all considered “exotic” because they are believed to have reached their current landing site from somewhere else.

“In such a young geologic unit, a wide range of crustal components from various sources will be delivered to the Chang’e-5 landing site by the latest processes on the lunar surface,” the researchers wrote in the published paper.

Some 3,000 particles smaller than 2 millimeters (0.08 inches) were sifted by size as they looked for evidence of past craters and volcanic activity. Just like on Earth, these types of igneous rocks can tell a geological story.

According to the researchers, the three fragments were distinguished by unusual petrological and compositional features.

The high-titanium vitrophyre fragment high in titanium, with larger crystals encased in a vitreous rock has a mineralogical composition not seen before on the Moon and is likely a new type of lunar rock.

According to the authors of the study, these rocky particles can be associated with areas of the Moon located up to 400 km (249 miles) away from where they were collected and scattered on the surface in a series of collisions with asteroids over the millennia.

“These exotic igneous fragments will provide evidence of lithological diversity and regolith formation processes in the Moon’s young marine regions [approximately 2 billion years old],” the researchers wrote.

Put it all together and the conclusion is that these fragments came from parts of the Moon’s surface that we don’t yet know about geologically. There may even have been volcanic eruptions that we don’t know about yet.

However, only about 0.2 percent of the material in the samples was classified as exotic, rather than the expected 10-20 percent.

This suggests that scientists may need to rethink how impact ejecta move across the lunar surface, at least in this new region.

Chang’e 5 collected its specimens in the region of R├╝mker Mountain in the northern part of Oceanus Procellarum.

The moons, and additional samples, as well as existing samples from earlier missions, will help to learn more about how the lunar surface has evolved and where future landing sites and bases should be located.

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